Domestic violence is a pervasive problem throughout the United States. The State of New Jersey is no exception to this ongoing dilemma. Accordingly, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act has been enacted and is intended to not only to prevent domestic violence but also to act as a shield for domestic violence victims – both men and women. Unfortunately, there are times where matrimonial litigants instead attempt to utilize the Act as a sword. In doing so, they trivialize the true plight of domestic violence victims and attempt to gain an unfair advantage in parallel divorce and/or custody proceedings. Domestic violence issues appear far too often in New Jersey family law matters.
We take domestic violence very seriously.
Our clients who are victims of domestic violence know that we will do everything in our power to protect them during their family law matters. We fight in the courtroom and protect them outside of it. Lawrence Law has partnered with VictimsVoice which has developed a tool that aims to fix the legal documentation burdens victims face when recalling details for reporting acts of abuse, harassment, and discrimination. We support groups that help victims of domestic violence including The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Safe + Sound Somerset.
And, we will rigorously defend allegations of domestic violence for our clients who are wrongfully accused during divorce and custody disputes.
Domestic Violence Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?
In 1991, the New Jersey Legislature found and declared that domestic violence is a serious crime against society. Specifically, the Act was passed to protect victims from their spouses or cohabitants as well as children and the elderly. Law enforcement and the New Jersey judiciary have responsibilities and remedies to further protect victims under the Act.
What constitutes domestic violence under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?
The following situations are covered under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act: homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment, stalking, criminal coercion, robbery, contempt of a domestic violence order and any crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury and cyber harassment.
What is a Temporary Restraining Order?
A temporary restraining order is a document issued by either a New Jersey municipal court judge or a superior court judge which grants protection to an alleged victim from the alleged defendant. Generally speaking, a temporary restraining order is awarded to an alleged victim when there is a preliminary showing, through their testimony, that one or more acts of domestic violence occurred. A temporary restraining order can also protect various loved ones of the alleged victim.
How does a victim of domestic violence about getting a TRO?
A victim of domestic violence can obtain a TRO by either going to a municipal court or county court. If it is after hours, on the weekend, or during a holiday (non-normal operating hours) the victim should go to the police station and they will get a judge on the phone to make a determination as to whether or not a TRO is warranted. During normal business hours, the victim should go to the court. Keep in mind that a TRO is relatively easy to obtain because it is a one-sided application and the bar is relatively low to meet the standard of a TRO being issued.
How is TRO different than a Final Restraining Order?
A temporary restraining order is a document that offers temporary protection until such time as the matter can be heard by a judge with both parties present, in order to make a final determination as to whether or not a final restraining order should be entered. A FRO is entered after a hearing where the victim has shown that (a) an act of domestic violence occurred; and (b) that a FRO is necessary to prevent future acts of domestic violence because the victim is still fearful of the alleged defendant. This is a much higher standard than what is needed for a TRO. Obtaining a FRO also allows the Defendant to provide a defense to the allegations made against him or her.
What are domestic and contretemps?
Domestic or Marital Contretemps is a term of art utilized to describe the common argument or discord between two individuals that does not rise to the level of domestic violence. In other words, not every fight, argument, disagreement, shouting match, or the like rises to the level of domestic violence triggering the issuance of a TRO or FRO. This is a commonly used defense when trying to defend against the issuance of a FRO.
What are civil restraints?
Civil Restraints are the civil counterpart to the restraints set forth in a TRO or FRO. In other words, these are utilized by parties that reach an agreement to enter into a Consent Order with Civil Restraints that states that they will refrain from certain behavior, contact, acts of domestic violence, etc., and if that gets violated, the victim can enforce the Consent Order in a different docket type, most likely the Family Division, instead of having the protections of a TRO or FRO under the domestic violence docket. This is often utilized by parties that realize the entry of a FRO could impact someone’s employment or otherwise jeopardize their ability to be gainfully employed.